Change Your Perspective

Change your Perspective

Sometimes events in our life change how we look at things.  Sometimes it is a little thing that makes us pause, but other times it is a big event that we know is going to fundamentally change us.  I am trying to become more conscious of these moments and events.

I now view them as an opportunity to change and refine my perspective on what’s important and how I want to live my life day-to-day.

Last week I was fortunate enough to travel across the county to spend time my uncle who is battling cancer.  I knew before I left to fly to California that this was going to be one of those big events.  This one was going to change my life.

Life is what we make of it

This visit reminded me that life is what we make of it.  Despite battling cancer for more than a year, my uncle is still the same strong and funny person I have always known.  What impressed me most was his ability to maintain his courage and strength throughout his battle.

I was thankful I had the time to spend with him, not only because it gave me the opportunity to say goodbye, but because it gave me a not so gentle reminder to live my life to the fullest.   It also reminded me that our perspective is what determines our  life experiences.

Make the most of it!
His love for his family has been magnified…or maybe it is just that I am more tuned in to what is taking place between us.  Every conversation, every laugh and every hug became important.

What if we could live our life focused on the things that really mattered all the time?

What would you change if you knew the end was near?  What conversations would you have with friends and family?  What small annoyances would you just ignore?  Is today the day to change your perspective?

Defeating Debt

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I started out my simplifying journey in part to pay off my debt. Although, I still have a way to go to reach my financial goals, I am now moving in the right direction.

Day-to-Day challenge.

I have always been good at long-term financial planning. I started putting money in my retirement accounts in my early twenties and I have increased the amount over time. I have purchased homes that I lived in and was later able to rent for profit. What I have had a hard time mastering is my day-to-day spending.

No matter how careful I think I am being, I always find myself unable to conquer my nagging debt.

So after reading hundreds and hundreds of finance books and articles here is what I decided to finally implement. (And by sharing it here, I have a support group that can keep me honest!)

Reduce Monthly Expenses

Sounds easy, but this can be challenging unless we change our mindset of what we “need” to be content.

By downsizing, I cut my monthly house bills to include mortgage, water and electricity.
I reduced my insurance bill and more importantly I reduced my day-to-day spending. Shopping is less appealing when you have limited space to put things!

But the biggest change is my mindset. I am more content with less these days, which has translated to less money out these days.

My tiny transition and change in mindset gave me enough wiggle room in my monthly bills that I now have enough to make real progress on my debt.

Stop digging!

I like to think of myself as mature and responsible. And if you met me, you would probably feel comfortable using those words to describe me.

But when it comes to credit cards I am a disaster! And I have always resisted the recommendation to cut them all up. See my credit cards are my security blanket and in the past they have been a way to “buy happiness.” In reality they have kept me trapped.

So no more digging! Time to end my credit card habit.

Keep moving in the right direction

By tracking my progress more consistently I am getting better at adjusting my spending habits.

I still struggle to make the right choices all of the time, but I making progress in the right direction. I have decided that rather than beat myself up for less than stellar financial decisions in the past, I will focus on how to move forward.

Hopefully these tips can help you in your financial journey.

3 Tips to Simplify your “Stuff” (Clear the Clutter!)

Tiny House living requires you to embrace downsizing and simplifying. One of the biggest selling points for “right sizing”, is the ability to unload unwanted possessions.

Most of us take years to accumulate our stuff, and unloading that stuff can be tough. It requires us to analyze everything we own in a new light.

During my downsizing journey, the phrase, “is it useful, is it beautiful, does it add value to my life,” became my mantra.

I unloaded furniture, clothes, kitchen items and books at a furious rate. I scoured every drawer and closet and made a million choices about what to keep and what to toss. It was exhausting, but rewarding.

Here are three tips for clearing the clutter no matter where you live.

1. Start with the easy stuff and start small

Most of us are attached to our things. There are very few people that can embrace minimalism whole heartedly from the beginning. So start small.

When you start, pick the things that you don’t have a strong emotional attachment to, which is what I mean by the easy stuff.

As a professional organizer, I always started with the junk drawer in the kitchen or the extra toiletry items in the bathroom. Starting small can give you a quick victory and help you create a little breathing space.

2. Sort, Toss, Repeat

There is no short-cut for simplifying, well unless you just toss or sell everything you own! Make sure as you go through your house you sort like items first. This will allow you to see what you actually have.

One of my organizing clients found 14 cans of green beans when we were clearing out her pantry. Until we grouped the items together she had no idea she had that many.

Toss what you don’t need. Now this doesn’t always mean you are throwing things out. It might mean donating them, gifting them to a friend (but make sure it’s something they really need), or in the case of larger items possibly consigning them or selling them.

Repeat this process until you are finished with your simplifying project.

3. Track your progress

Find a meaningful way to track your own progress. It can be encouraging to see how far you have come on your simplifying journey.

I liked keeping a picture of all the stuff I parted with (like the one below). When I felt like I still had a long way to go I would review my progress which always helped me focus on my goal and appreciate how far I had come.

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It is liberating and exciting to realize how little you need to live day-to-day, but it is also stressful. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress as you go.

I’d love to hear about your simplifying journey. What are you finding hard to part with? Or what strategies did you use to downsize effectively?

Is it Cheating?!?

Okay here is my Tiny House confession. I own a 4 x 6 cargo trailer that I use for overflow storage.

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This mighty little trailer (which looks hilarious sitting beside the massive RV’s and huge trailers at the storage lot), increases my square footage by 10%. Yep, that’s right, 24 square feet adds 10% to my total square footage.

My little trailer houses my out of season clothing, my extra triathlon gear and all of the luggage I couldn’t force myself to part with. It keeps my Christmas decorations safe and gives me a spot to hang my business suits for the two times a year I need them. All in all, it is a fantastic addition to my Tiny adventure.

I have owned my cargo trailer for almost 10 years. I originally purchased my trailer to move my 55 gallon salt water aquarium from Wyoming to Georgia when I went to grad school. My little pal has traveled across country with me multiple times and has always been a fantastic way for me to move the items in my life that are most valuable.

When I decided to downsize I knew I would have that space to use for storage and it allowed me to keep some of the things I would have had to part with otherwise (like my luggage. . .I have a luggage illness). I probably wouldn’t have gone out and purchased a cargo trailer for overflow storage if I hadn’t already owned one, but it is certainly nice to have.

I can hear the gasps from here. “I thought she lived in a tiny house, isn’t that cheating?!?” Well, I guess that depends on your perspective.

The idea of right-sizing is about creating a life that is intentional and meaningful. For me, using this “extra” storage seems both practical and useful. However, I know there are those who would argue that if I have to store some of my possessions I haven’t really downsized enough.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this subject.

Road Less Traveled

If you feel like you work too much, spend too much and generally rush through life waiting for the next big thing, I know how you feel! Up until last year my life was on a “normal” path of balancing work with consumption, progress with debt and happiness with stress.  My life wasn’t bad it was just out of balance.

The allure of the American Dream is strong. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we can have it all, and in some ways we can. I still want to have financial freedom, I still want enough money to do the things I enjoy, I still want to spend my time with the people I love and I still want to pursue my dreams, but those dreams look a lot different than they did a year ago.

Life is all about trade offs. On any given day, we trade productivity for sleep, time for money, and money for relaxation, or adventure or recreation. None of these trade offs are bad, unless we are no longer content with what we are trading. Last year I realized I was at a point in my life where the trades I was making weren’t adding value to my life or helping me get closer to my dream.

Tiny living has helped me become more content with what I have from a material perspective. I realize how few “things” I need to be content on any given day. I have also been able to slow down enough to start figuring out what my dream looks like. Tiny living has certainly allowed me to focus less on acquiring stuff and less on maintaining my space, but more importantly it has given me enough time to focus on developing my new dream.

Today I took some time off work to relax and work on my own business. I was able to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, and Rocket was thrilled by our long walk. Just slowing down this afternoon reminded me of how far I have come. It gave me another opportunity to appreciate my new adventure. It also reminded me of a Robert Frost Poem,

The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I know my road is the less traveled one, but it’s the right road for me.

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Shopping Fun!

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So this is what shopping for a 33 item food list looks like!

I officially started the Capsule Kitchen Challenge this month. My plan is to share updates throughout the next three months to explain my thoughts and experiences with this challenge.

So here is my first observation. . .shopping is now a breeze! I really don’t enjoy shopping. I am not sure how I missed the gene, but it just didn’t stick. One of the things that appealed to me about this challenge was the idea that I would I could simplify my shopping trip to the grocery store.

I have used shopping lists for my groceries for a long time, but making my list is even easier now! I went to the store with my list of 33 items and I was out of there in 15 minutes. No more wondering if I had missed something or wandering around the store for a forgotten key ingredient. It was fantastic.

Here is the list of 33 items I decided to stick with for the next 3 months (in no particular order)

1. Shrimp
2. Avocado
3. Tomato
4. Onion
5. Peppers
6. Mushrooms
7. Asparagus
8. Broccoli
9. Cauliflower
10. Apples
11. Bananas
12. Black Beans
13. Pinto Beans
14. Mixed Greens
15. Quinoa
16. Whole Grain Bread
17. Chicken
18. Chicken Broth
19. Coffee
20. Hot Chocolate
21. Milk
22. Eggs
23. Bacon
24. Tortillas
25. Tortilla Chips
26. Cheerios
27. Oatmeal
28. Three Cheese Blend (Asiago, Parmesean, Swiss)
29. Mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews)
30. Cranberries
31. Corn
32. Sweet potatoes
33. Chocolate (ideally dark dove squares only, but we will see how it goes!)

I came up with most of the items on my list pretty easily just by looking at what I currently eat. I have been trying to add more whole grains and fresh veggies to my diet, so this was a great way to enforce that habit. I am also doing my best to eliminate white flour and reduce sugar in my diet (many of you have probably noticed chocolate is still on the list. That was for the safety and well-being of my co-workers!).

I am sure I missed something important, so I decided to reserve the right to change up to 3 items if I realize I missed an item I can’t live without. I will also be using butter, olive oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegar dressing, honey mustard dressing, garlic, cilantro and salt to flavor my meals. I am sure the seasoning list may change over. I’d love to hear your thoughts on other great flavor boosters.

My goal is to try at least one or two new recipes a week that include these items. If you have a suggestion for me to try, please let me know! I will be featuring some of these meals in my future blog posts. I think that’s it for now!

P.S. If you are interested in following along just sign up to follow my blog and you will get updates via e-mail.

A Tiny House Kitchen

I have always been enamored with beautiful, functional and organized kitchens. In fact, I spent a lot of time and money remodeling and updating the kitchens in my last two houses. I poured over pictures in every kitchen and bath magazine I could find and spent countless hours in Lowes analyzing every option. I even created a notebook and Pinterest page specifically for my “dream kitchen.”

When I was finally ready to remodel, I searched for the perfect cabinets full of fancy storage solutions. I replaced my appliances with shiny stainless steel versions that had tons of useful and functional features. And I agonized over the countertops. The research and hard work paid off. I loved my kitchens.

It should come as no surprise that when I started looking at Tiny House designs, I often focused on the kitchen. The challenge was changing my mindset on the must haves, after all you can’t fit the perfect french door Samsung fridge in a Tiny House. But I still wanted it to have room for my pots and pans, my dishes and a few of my most useful kitchen gadgets. I also wanted it to feel roomy. . .no galley kitchens for this kid! Here is the kitchen I ended up with.

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I picked this layout because it had quite a bit of storage in terms of cabinets and drawers. It had an open feel and it appealed to me aesthetically. By forgoing a full sized oven, I was able to add a washer/dryer combo on the back side of my counters (which was a must have for me).

I really like my kitchen, but a Tiny House kitchen is nothing like a “normal sized” kitchen. I have comparatively little storage space in this kitchen compared to my remodeled kitchen in my other house.

My pantry consists of a couple of wicker baskets and a drawer in my stair case. I do all of my baking in a toaster oven and I cook my meals on a two burner induction range. Sadly I had to leave the fancy Samsung fridge behind. It has been replaced with an apartment size fridge (stainless steel of course!), which is great, but it certainly has limited space, particularly for frozen food. These changes require a new way of approaching cooking.

So this month I am starting the Capsule Kitchen Challenge. This challenge involves picking 33 foods to use over the next three months for all of my meals. Over the next three months, I will be sharing my list, my recipes and my experiences of my challenge. My goal is to find new delicious recipes and generally learn to be more thankful for the abundance in my life. I’d love it if you would sign up to follow my blog and perhaps share some great recipes with me!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this challenge.

Millionaire Over Night

Someone posted the following question on one of the Tiny House Facebook pages I follow:

“What if you became a millionaire over night? Would you still live in a Tiny House?”

It was the kind of question that really made me stop and think. What would I do with that kind of money? Where would I want to live? How would it change how I lived? Would I stay in my Tiny house? Here is what I decided. . .

A million dollars would certainly give me a level of financial security that I don’t currently have. It would allow me to pay off all my debt and let me put a substantial chunk of money into a rainy day fund. The money would also allow me to travel more. I would finally get to see Australia and Scotland. . .which I am convinced would be amazing. I would absolutely start ballroom dancing again! And I would focus on growing my own business. Here is what the million dollars wouldn’t change.

The money wouldn’t change what I enjoy doing in my free time. I would still want to spend time with family and friends as much as possible. I would still want to spend time engaging in my hobbies. Ballroom dancing, triathlons, reading and writing would still be the things that made me smile. A million dollars wouldn’t dramatically change how I use my space on a day-to-day basis, nor would it suddenly make my house feel too small. I am sure I would upgrade a few things like my iPad and my computer (I really want an iMac!), but it wouldn’t change how I feel about my home.

Ultimately I realized a million dollars would give me more security, some more opportunities and a few more coveted personal possessions, but it wouldn’t change me. It wouldn’t change the reasons I chose this lifestyle to start with, and it wouldn’t change the things that are important to me in this stage of life. I was excited to realize that if someone said:

“What if you became a millionaire over night? Would you still live in a Tiny House?”

My answer would be, “yes!”

Would you stay where you are if you won a million dollars? If not, what would you change? What’s stopping you from moving in the direction of your dreams?